Soldiers feet in uniform.
Two Stories, One Mission: Finding Hope for the Warriors
Jenna McDonald '07
Sports & Recreation Manager at Hope for The Warriors

Spirit. Mind. Body. That is a mantra that is easy to learn and hard to forget. When I started my studies at Springfield College, I had one goal – to make athletes the best that they can be. Springfield College was the best place for me to achieve this goal, but as I soon learned, that goal would change thanks to what I would learn there. As I grew as a student, that goal became making people around me the best version of themselves, not just athletes. The culture at Springfield College showed me that the more people I could affect with the spirit, mind, and body philosophy, the better. Upon graduation in 2007, I met my husband. He too had the calling to serve others and is an active-duty United State Marine Corps Officer. Since 2007, our lives have taken us through four different states, four overseas deployments, and various job titles for me. In all of those states and all of those job titles, one thing has always stayed constant and that is my goal to help people be the best versions of themselves by utilizing the teachings of spirit, mind, and body.

I happened upon Hope For The Warriors while my husband and I were stationed in North Carolina. I was pursuing my master’s degree in athletic administration and needed to complete an internship. Hope For The Warriors encompassed exactly what my goals were: to help others become the best version of themselves through sports and recreation, and there I found the best clients I wish for— those who have given so much to our great nation. Hope For The Warriors’ mission is to provide holistic services to active duty service members, veterans and caregivers. Hope For The Warriors sports and recreation program is part of the warrior culture and we aim to reintroduce a loved hobby or sport that will promote a healthy lifestyle mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually within these service members no matter where they are on their road to recovery.

I feel strongly that spirit, mind, and body has allowed me to live such a full life and be so resilient as a military spouse. I cannot thank Springfield College enough for setting such a great foundation for me.

Irina Watkins G'17
Community & Peer to Peer Manager at Hope For The Warriors

My name is Irina Watkins and I grew up in Varkaus, Finland. I moved to the United States in 1999 after earning an athletic scholarship to the University of Minnesota. Shortly after we met, I married my husband David in 2000. David joined the U.S. Army in 2003 and we have moved 16 times in 10 years, living in 10 states. In addition to my master’s degree from Springfield College, I have another master’s degree in kinesiology from Temple University. Getting an education while hopping and skipping around the country has certainly not been easy, but I have found ways to do it (even if that meant commuting all the way from DC to Philadelphia to school).

In 2015 I started studying counseling psychology at Springfield College. Our son Elias was born during my second year of studies there and once I finished my degree I decided to take a little time off to be with the baby. A year ago, I started looking for a job and saw a job description with Hope For The Warriors. I had not thought of working for a veteran service organization, but it felt like a great fit right off the bat. I have seen and experienced the struggles of a military family myself and wanted to join an organization that supported our service members and their families. Hope For The Warriors does wonderful work among post-9/11 veterans, service members, and their families.

Having a healthy mind in a healthy body has always been something I try to promote whenever I can. This mindset was one of the reasons I applied to study at Springfield College, where the spirit, mind, and body philosophy has been a guiding force since the inception of the institution. That is why joining the sports and recreation team at Hope For The Warriors felt natural. We help service members stay healthy physically and mentally by participating in sports and different recreational activities. Once I started working at Hope for the Warriors I met Jenna, and learned that she was also a graduate of Springfield College, and married to a service member! What a coincidence and a small world!

Through our accounts of how impactful our separate times at Springfield College were, we hope that it showcases how the teachings of humanics have given us the spirit to serve others. Hope For The Warriors and Springfield College have given us a great opportunity to spread these ideas to others.

About the author

Jenna McDonald, '07

San Diego, CA

Jenna McDonald is the Sports & Recreation Manager at Hope for the Warriors, where she provides adaptive sports, running and outdoor adventure opportunities to service members, veterans and families. Jenna has worked at Roger Williams University and The Department of the Navy. Jenna graduated from Springfield College in 2007 with her Bachelor of Science and continued her education at Southern New Hampshire University obtaining her Master’s degree in Athletic Management/Sports Administration in 2017. Jenna is a mom, dog-lover and CrossFit fanatic. She is originally from Chepachet, Rhode Island currently living in San Diego, CA with her husband, an active-duty Marine Officer, 4-month-old daughter and two dogs.

Jenna McDonald at Springfield College.

About the author

Irina Watkins, G'17

Washington, D.C.

Irina Watkins is the Community and Peer to Peer Manager at Hope For The Warriors. Currently, Irina assists service members to participate in different athletic events and connects community members with service members and Hope For The Warriors. Irina is originally from Varkaus, Finland, and was a collegiate athlete, participating in track and field and cross country. In the past, Irina has worked at NCAA in Indianapolis, Temple University in Philadelphia, Springfield College, and Massachusetts Senior Games, and holds two master’s degrees (Temple University/Kinesiology, Springfield College/Counseling Psychology). Irina is the mother of a two-year-old and currently lives close to Washington DC with her son Elias, husband David, and dog Lasse.

Irina Watkins